OSHKOSH, Wis.- Kids dream of competing together to race the fastest cars they can build and win the grand prize. For a group of 20 engineers, scientists and technicians from Ohio State University (OSU) and Wisconsin-based Oshkosh Truck, the goal is to win the $1 million dollar grand prize awarded to the winner of the DARPA Grand Challenge.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has a Congressional mandate to reward advanced technology achievements that could lead to technology transfer of innovative solutions for U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) future projects.
Unmanned vehicle technology is perceived as a critical component of future military capabilities. The format and requirements of the event are specifically designed to target companies and entrepreneurs that define grassroots American ingenuity. The Grand Challenge is DARPA’s creative approach to increase awareness of the technological issues associated with autonomous vehicles as well as to stimulate creative and innovative performance designs.
The DARPA Grand Challenge is being held on March 13, and involves twenty-four teams from throughout the U.S. that will have race modified off road automatic navigation ground vehicles between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The team that fields a vehicle that finishes the designated first within a 10 hour time limit will be granted a cash award of $1 million.
Team Terramax is comprised of expert designers for Oshkosh Truck and graduate students OSU. They have partnered to develop a self-navigating robotic vehicle The completely autonomous vehicle, known as Terramax, will traverse a rugged 250-mile Mojave Desert course in March between Los Angeles and Las Vegas without a driver or remote controls.
The rugged cross-country course navigation system for Terramax involves highly complex sensing systems, a global position system, high-power computers and drive-by-wire technology. The vehicle will select a course based on a set of coordinates that are disclosed just two hours before race time to the final field of up to 20 race teams.
\”We\’re excited and challenged by the possibility of developing the first unmanned vehicle to travel such a long distance without any human interface en route. The technologies incorporated into our robotic vehicle bring tremendous potential to influence the safety, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of both public transit and private vehicle transportation,\” said Robert G. Bohn, Oshkosh chairman, president and chief executive officer.
Terramax is built on Oshkosh\’s combat-proven Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement vehicle, which was originally designed for the U.S. Marine Corps to handle off-road terrain. The vehicle\’s 6×6 design is equipped with independent suspension to make rocks, dips, holes and crevasses easier to handle. Drive-by-wire technology allows computers to control the steering via a servomotor, an actuator to operate the brakes, and direct electronic control of the accelerator and transmission.
Six high-powered computers control the main functions needed for Terramax to drive and navigate itself. The computers run on specialized software that the OSU team developed for map and route planning, driving, obstacle detection and avoidance, sensor data input and interpretation, and diagnostics. Sensing systems, including radar, laser range finders, sonar, and digital video cameras, provide the inputs Terramax needs to \”see\” and avoid obstacles.
\”The applications for this driverless technology are remarkable, particularly for the military, which is sponsoring this race,\” explained Don Verhoff, Oshkosh\’s executive vice president of technology. \”Although design development may continue for years, the idea of a driverless convoy of defense vehicles to deliver supplies to the front line, never jeopardizing the welfare of a single driver, is closer than one might imagine.\”
Team Terramax is sponsored by Michelin, Parker Hannifin, Fastenal, Rockwell Automation, Honda/OSU Partnership, Caterpillar, Arvin Meritor, Raytheon, Sikkens, Bosch, Dana, Bendix, Novatel, Transpro, Transportation Research Center, MCL, U.S. Oil, Gordon Aluminum, Fleet Guard and others.